Define Free

It seemed innocent enough.

Last month a friend took me to see a hockey game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Calgary Flames. As we entered the arena a woman with a clipboard was waiting to see if we wanted to sign up to win a "prize," including maybe a vacation / cruise.

Well, Netter and I haven't been on a "real vacation," let alone a cruise in quite some time so I thought - sure I'll sign up.

My friend and I talked about it as we walked away.

We thought if we did "win a prize," we'd win the lowest prize on the rung.
We knew that there was probably some "come listen to our presentation" gimmick involved in actually claiming the prize.
We both agreed that the only way we would go listen is if we won the cruise.

We then enjoyed the CBJ's 5-0 trouncing of the Flames and I forgot all about the prize.

Fast forward to just 2 weeks ago. (Did that sound funny?) Our home phone rings, and for some unknown reason I decide to answer it.

We've been talking about losing the home phone for quite sometime now. We all have cell phones, and take the larger majority of our calls on that mobile device. Initially we had kept the land line because we had a DSL connection. Recently however, we had switched to cable, (Anybody need a DSL modem?) and I have been trying to track down all the places that have our home number to change that contact information. I'd say we're about 95% of the way to having that accomplished and getting rid of the home phone altogether.

Oh, I forgot to mention what may be the most important reason we want to lose the home phone. You ready for this?


Since we have started changing over our contact info just about every time the home phone rings we know it is probably a telemarketer.

And still I answered it.

Me: Hello
Caller (April) : "Hi this is April from Sundance Vacations." (I considered putting a link there, but don't want to give them the traffic.) Is this James?
Me: It is, and I am not interested.
April: Don't you want to know what you're not interested in.
Me: Trying to be nice here.
April: Well you signed up for this.
Me: Okay, tell me what I signed up for.

April then went on to relate to me that I had signed up at the hockey game, gave me the date of the hockey game, included the score of the game and said that for an hour of my time I was "guaranteed a cruise."

I repeated what she said verbatim, and my very alert wife said - "What about airfare to get where the cruise is leaving from?"

Of course, I repeated the question for April. She informed me that they had a limited number of airfares available, but that if I could come before Saturday they would have airfare for me. It was already Thursday evening. We had an activity of some sort on Friday and I worked on Saturday.

As nicely as I could I told April that I really appreciated the call and her patience, but we just weren't interested and to please give the prize to someone who either had a free schedule at a moments notice or could afford the airfare. I hung up.

About a week later there was a message on the chalkboard in our kitchen - from April.

What the heck?

The next day I called Sundance Vacations and explained to Mandy, who took the call because April was on another line, that we were not interested, could not afford the airfare, etc... and so on.

Mandy said - Oh we have airfare. We have everything. I don't know why April told you we didn't. We just need an hour of your time.

Intrigued I said "Really, airfare and everything?"

Mandy answered in the affirmative. I told her I would have to check my schedule, (i.e. run this by Netter) and I might just call her back.

Then right before she hung up Mandy said, Okay, that's a cruise for two, and airfare. All you would be responsible for is taxes.

AH HAH! I knew it. I just started to laugh. Free my Eye! (Okay, I didn't say Eye, but this is a family blog.)

I didn't go off on Mandy like I wanted to. I couldn't. I was laughing too hard. Instead I just said goodbye and hung up the phone. My might call had obviously just turned into I'm not calling, though I did share the story with Netter when I got home and we had a good laugh.

You'll never believe what happened next.

No Really.

Yep, they called back. Unfortunately for them, they called right before the Red Wings' playoff game yesterday evening - like in the last 30 seconds before I was going to answer any phone for the next 2.5 hours.

"Hi we're calling from Sundance Vacations..."

I couldn't help it. I cut them off totally saying - pretty loudly actually.

When are you people going to get it? We don't want your prize. We can't afford the prize. We can't afford the taxes. It's not free and you know it. Please take us off your list and stop calling us NOW!

I wonder if they got it?

I get that it's really my fault for even signing up in the first place, but still very frustrating, very frustrating indeed.


largesse said...

That's real persistence!

I don't even want to sit through the high-pressure sales talk to get the "free" stuff, so I always just say "no thanks." DH steered me into one such thing once-- despite my protests--and he knows now not to do that to me again!

Cammie said...

telemarketers should be shot.

Cat said...

I once signed up, at the State Fair, to possibly win "free replacement windows for the whole house". Well, I liked the look of the windows, we needed new windows, etc. The sales guy said his home pitch would be 30 minutes. 1.5 hours into it, I said I had to leave to go to a meeting, and he said - well, if you can let me finish, and choose the windows tonight I can give you a 10% discount. He'd not given any price yet or anything. It was like being trapped. He called his supervisor, said he could give us a 15% discount. I said "look, I am not making up this meeting - and I'm leaving now. We don't make decisions about large money layouts without thinking and talking about them. Even if I stayed, we would not sign with you tonight." It was so bad, in fact, that we STILL, 10 years later, not gotten our windows replaced, because we're afraid of dealing with shit like that again.

Anonymous said...

We knew what we were getting into after we received the “you won a Free cruise” phone call. But we still decided to listen to the hour long program and the pitch for us to buy the vacation program.

The pitch was not hard core which we appreciated and for what it is worth, if you are avid travelers and vacation ALOT - this may be a good idea. Think of it like the Costco of Vacations. However we were not financially able to plop down money or take on more monthly payments so we politely said no to all of their offers.

But we still were getting a free cruise - so I was excited about that. Until I get on the phone at reservation time only to find out that NOTHING is free. We were aware of the taxes and fees that we would have to pay - and that was cool. But unless you want a cabin with bunk beds and you are OK with traveling when they tell you and you are ok with paying for a hotel the night before the cruise and night after the cruise returns and paying for transfers to and from port and hotel …all which adds up to almost an additional $250 pp...then this is the incentive for you.

I ended up canceling our free voucher for a cruise knowing that I could book a cruise for less than $250 a person and fly as cheap as $100 roundtrip and PICK the dates and flights that work best for me.

Not too mention I spent over an hour on the phone with the reservation people...25 minutes on hold waiting for a representative and another 45 minutes of them trying to get reservations.

Bottom line- take it with a grain of salt....they will try to make it as inconvenient as possible so you will make upgrades and forget that you are slowly but surely spending almost a $800-$1000 on your so-called FREE cruise!

This blog explains the Sundance Sweepstakes quite well:

Sundance Vacations Sweepstakes vs Do Not Call

(Just type the above into the Google search engine) Or, use the below URL

Jim Brochowski said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by.

largesse - this is without question something we will never do again.

Cammie - hard to argue with you. These people certainly made me angry enough.

Cat, we had a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman do that kind of thing to us once. When he told me he needed to meet a colleague to discuss the "price of our vacuum cleaner," (as I was not negotiating beyond a certain number) and then proceeded to light up a smoke in our driveway all the while knowing we had someplace to be. I told him he could come in and get his stuff or I would bring it out for him, but we were done.
I'm almost ashamed I kinda got burned this time too.

Anonymous - thanks for the story and the link. I just may file a complaint as we are on the DNC list. Come to think of it, I might have a few complaints. I "thought we were on the list."


Yet another reason to just get rid of the land line in the first place.

Once again, thanks to everyone for stopping by.


Dolores said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dolores said...

While researching Sundance Vacations I discovered the following post, which is self-explanatory:

"This company is a FRAUD. I also got suckered into going down to pick up the free cruise I had been given as a "gift." Now, the customer service agent was correct in that they never use the word "won". It’s just a matter of wording to keep their scams on the border-line of legal. And I understood that I had to sit through an hour of a sales pitch. which I was fine with. What I was not fine with were the LIES that they had told me in advance about this free cruise.

LIE #1: I could go on the cruise at ANYTIME during the year. I was told repeatedly by the woman on the phone about how I could basically go whenever dates I wanted to, anytime during the next year. Well, that is a lie. When I received my vacation voucher, I looked at the fine print on the back page. You CANNOT use this cruise during the months of June, July, August, or any week of which there is a holiday.

LIE #2: If I didn't use the cruise, I could do with it whatever I wished. I could give it as a gift or sell it. The fact is, you CANNOT. It clearly states that the name of the trip is non-transferable and cannot be sold.

LIE #3: I was told airfare was included and that I could fly from my local airport. which is a major international airport. That isn't true. They tell you where to fly out of. For example, they mentioned Newark, New Jersey as a possibility. Plus, the fine print says it only includes "base" airfare. I'm not even sure what the fine print is on base airfare.

LIE #4: I was told I would simply have to pay minor taxes on a trip which values at about 1, 200 dollars. Well, the taxes start at $225 dollars per person (35 percent tax???????) Plus, there are all kind of registration and booking fees on top of that.

LIE #5: I was specifically told on the phone I would even receive free gift cards to Applebee’s, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden if I came to the 5pm presentation. When I inquired about them, the girl gave me a funny look and told me that "they didn't give them out anymore because people don't use them." What??? I was told only the DAY BEFORE I would be getting them. So, they gave me this piece of paper and said to go eat somewhere (anywhere), attach the receipt to the paper, send a self addressed stamped envelope, and I could get up to 15 dollars for my meal. I'm not holding my breath. Bottom line, this company is a fraud. They told me out and out lies about the cruise just to get me in. They are very shrewd. They have people designed to search these very blogs just to tell you how wonderful they are. There is an old saying. "Me thinks thou protests too much." If someone has to over and over again tell you about all the awards they won and how great they are...makes you wonder why...doesn't it?????"

The following links will offer you substantial information about Sundance Vacations and their sweepstakes giveaways used to induce the consumer to attend a $15,000 high pressure sales pitch for a vacation club membership: